My husband tapped me on the shoulder as I sat at my computer, engrossed in a writing assignment. "Will you listen to my speech? I'm on for Friday and I want to be really good."
I turned and smiled. "Sure. Give me a minute to close down and I'll be right with you."
I wasn't crazy about stopping my work just then, but Charles sounded urgent. He'd been a member of Toastmasters International for many years and he was eager to run his latest speech by me, the one he hoped would qualify him to compete in a regional contest. This was not the time to make him wait or to let out a big sigh! It was a time to put aside my desires and provide a listening ear and an affirming hug.
At that moment I thought about my friend Grace, now deceased, the woman who taught me everything I know about encouragement when I went to her for counsel as a new Christian and as a newlywed for the second time. Grace never saw the "down" side of anything. She kept her eyes on the Lord and always redirected my focus to him when I was worried or anxious. "Listen to my teaching," she often said, "but never put it ahead of the Holy Spirit's guidance. Talk things over with him, and he'll lead you." And she reminded me in words and by example of the importance of encouraging my spouse most of all.
As I watched Grace stand by her husband, Rob, and support him in his faith and as a husband and father and Christian, I knew that's what I wanted to do for my husband, Charles. Over the years of our marriage I've looked for opportunities to bring out the best in him and to encourage him in some way each day. I miss the mark sometimes, but when I do, I remember how Grace encouraged me and I turn things around as quickly as possible.1